Water Sustainability and Our Farmers

Around the world, water sustainability is a many faceted concern. From communities facing water scarcity from drought, to those with plenty of water but none that’s safe to drink, water sustainability is critical. Human hygiene and health, energy, ecosystems and climate change, and the sustainability of our global food supply all depend on how we manage our planet’s water resources.

At One Degree Organics, we believe in the connection between healthy soil, healthy crops, and healthy people. And for many of our farmer partners, water sustainability is key. Here are three ways some of our farmers are handling this essential resource.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

In the semi-arid foothills of the Andes Mountains in Argentina, hot summers and few permanent rivers mean farmers need to make every drop count. Our raisin farm partner Familia Frezzi – Pasafre is extremely careful about water. So careful, they built their own reservoir. The farm’s three wells draw water from underground for irrigation. Interconnected with each other—and the reservoir—through underground pipes, a filter station provides water for drip irrigation to their vineyards, trees, and gardens.

Sprinkler irrigation waters more than just the crop. It waters pathways between rows, and other areas that don’t need water, and in hot, dry air, a lot of it evaporates before it ever hits the ground. Drip irrigation conserves water, making sure each plant gets only and exactly what it needs to thrive, delivered directly to the roots without wasting a drop. But drip irrigation is far from the only way Familia Frezzi – Pasafre conserves water. They monitor the water that evaporates from the crops, and replace only what’s lost so their crops are never over-watered. And they recycle water, too.

Familia Frezzi – Pasafre’s raisins dry in the field, so they need to be rinsed after they’ve been sorted and de-stemmed. To further reduce water use, they have a low-flow system in their processing facility for rinsing the raisins. Then they capture the rinse water and reuse it for partial irrigation of their crop. Only using the water they need, and making the most out of the water they have is their way of protecting this precious resource, and making the world a little better.

Rain as a Resource

Farmers in arid and semi-arid climates depend on ground or surface water to irrigate their crops. Others are fortunate to farm where rainwater is all the water their crops need. Our oat farm partner, River’s Edge Organics in Barrhead, Alberta is one of many examples closer to home. But perhaps our most compelling and unexpected rainwater story comes from our rice farm partner in Northern Cambodia, IBIS Rice.

Most rice in the world is farmed in flooded fields called paddies. This traditional practice is water-intensive. And in areas where inorganic arsenic in soil and groundwater are high, it also contributes to inorganic arsenic contamination in rice1. IBIS Rice uses dryland rice farming practices, relying only on seasonal rain and no other irrigation. Using this no-flood method has a two-fold benefit. Their rice has no detectable inorganic arsenic. And the collective of 1,000 rice-farming families is helping preserve forests that are home to species on the verge of extinction.

Run-of-the-River

Beyond sustainable irrigation, there are other ways to respect water and make a positive contribution to environmental sustainability in farming. Our pumpkin seed farm partner Schalk Muehle in Styria, Austria are an excellent example. In business for six generations, their family and the families they work with have been farming the land for close to 200 years. And for over 100 years, the river that flows past Schalk Muehle has powered their entire production facility. Their fish-friendly run-of-the-river hydroelectric power plant makes their entire operation CO₂-neutral. Reservoir-based hydroelectric power that drastically alters landscapes and interrupt waterways. In contrast, run-of-the-river uses the natural flow of the river to generate electricity. For Schalk Muehle, this proud history is part of how they live up to their motto: true sustainability.

  1. Lia, Chongyang, Carrijo, Daniela R., Nakayama, Yuhei, Linquist, Bruce A., Green,Peter G., Parikh, Sanjai J., Impact of Alternate Wetting and Drying Irrigation on Arsenic Uptake and Speciation in Flooded Rice Systems. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 272 (2019) 188–198. Accessed January 29, 2020. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330073587_Impact_of_Alternate_Wetting_and_Drying_Irrigation_on_Arsenic_Uptake_and_Speciation_in_Flooded_Rice_Systems